Thursday, April 24, 2014

Something Weird (Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1967)

According to my crack research staff--and by "staff," I mean, Steve, Justin, Agnieszska, Big Lloyd and Tammy--white people didn't start taking martial arts classes until 1973--you know, the year Enter the Dragon came out. (Okay, if that's the case, how do you explain the fact that Herschell Gordon Lewis' Something Weird opens with two white guys doing karate?) Truth be told, I don't think anyone can explain why this film opens with two white guys doing karate. (A paradox for the ages, perhaps?) It looks like it. (Oh, well.) Another thing before I begin my lavishly ornate tribute to one of the most alluring witches in film history, did anyone else find it strange that Dr. Alex Jordan (William Booker) told two Jefferson, Wisconsin detectives that he was attacked by a blanket? I mean, if I was attacked by a blanket in Jefferson, Wisconsin, I would have kept it to myself. I don't care how savage the blanket might have seemed, you don't go around telling other men you were nearly murdered by a blanket. If I was to tell the fellas about my unique brush with death, I would have told them I was attacked by a demonic armada of commemorative dinner plates, or better yet, a psychotic blender with mommy issues, as these household items are far more menacing than a blanket. (White guys doing karate, homicidal blankets? I don't want to come off as close-minded, but this film sounds like a huge piece of crap.) Oh, it's a huge piece of something all right. I'm just not sure crap is the term I would use. (Shit?) No, that's not right either. (Fecal matter?) Nope. (Unrefrigerated diarrhea?) *sigh*

This film is a huge piece of Mudite Arums. (Huh? Is that a new euphemism for poo?) Uh-uh. Credited as "The Hag," Mudite Arums is the main reason to watch this movie. (First of all, what the hell is a Mudite Arums? And secondly, is there any gore?) Let me answer you're second question first. No, there isn't any gore. I know, a Herschell Gordon Lewis film without gore might seem redundant, but that's just the way it is (the majority of H.G.L.'s films, by the way, are not so-called "gore films").

What is a "Mudite Arums"? I've been asking myself that very question non-stop for about a week. (Are you sure Mudite Arums is not some figment of your witch-loving imagination?) Oh, she's real all right. And I have the stains to prove it. I can't believe I just said that. It was not only inappropriate, it was downright disgusting. I am truly sorry.

In my defence, though, Mudite Arums does have a pair of lips on her left knee. (No she doesn't.) Yeah, she does. (If that's the case, this film must have reduced you to a quivering pile of gelatinous goo.) It must have? (Aren't you the one who's always going on about how they want to lick and/or kiss the knees attached to witches?) Oh, yeah, you're right. I am that one, aren't I?

And just like the white guys doing karate and the homicidal blanket, I can't really explain why Mudite Arums has lips on her left knee. However, unlike the karate and the blanket, I don't really want to know why Mudite Arums has lips on her left knee, as the mystery surrounding their existence gives her character an added layer of depth.

Let's say you're non-psychic who works for an electrical company and you sort of look like a blurred photo of a young George Peppard. You might not be psychic, but you get a regular paycheck and you sort of look like a blurred photo of a young George Peppard. In other words, life is good.

What if a terrible accident took away your ability to not only work for an electrical company but robbed you of your ability to sort of look like a blurred photo of a young George Peppard, how far would you go to get the latter back? (What about the former?) Fuck that noise, I want to sort of look like a blurred photo of a young George Peppard. (Right, where's my head.)

While I implied earlier that Something Weird opens with the two white guys doing karate, in truth, it actually opens with a killer choking a woman wearing a white knee-length skirt with matching pumps. We eventually see the woman's face as she falls to the ground, but the killer's identity is not revealed; at least not yet. I just wanted to mention this before anybody got bent out of shape and accused me misleading them into thinking they were going to get white guys doing karate right from the get-go.

One of the white guys doing karate is Dr. Alex Jordan (William Brooker), a government scientist who is in charge of parapsychological research. After karate class, we see Alex making out with a blonde woman on a couch. And just as the blonde woman is telling Alex that he is "positively electrifying," we see an electrician get electrocuted and fall off a roof. A bunch of his co-workers come to his aide. One of these of helpful co-workers, Cronin 'Mitch' Mitchell (Tony Mccabe), tries to grab a live wire, but it hits him in the face.

At the hospital, two doctors are discussing Mitch's case (one of them calls him "almost deranged"). While getting half your face burned off sucks and all, Mitch is now psychic. Yeah, it would seem that Mitch's accident was a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, the electricity has given him a rare gift. Yet, part of his face looks like burnt toast covered in a healthy dollop of lumpier than usual marmalade.

Doing what any other electrician turned scarred psychic would do, Mitch charges people two dollars a pop to get a psychic reading from a real psychic.

One day, while giving readings, in walks a vision of... loveliness?!? That's doesn't sound right. In walks a vision of tasteful elegance. (Are you sure you know what words mean?) What? ("Tasteful elegance"? C'mon, man.) Whatever. Enter The Witch (Mudite Arums). Oh, before I continue, I should mention that a book on witchcraft magically appears in Mitch's hands before The Witch comes in. At any rate, The Witch greets Mitch by saying, "Good day, Mr. Mitchell," in a decidedly witchy manner.

If you're thinking The Witch in Something Weird looks like Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched or Nicole Kidman from Bewitched, think again. This witch is the kind of witch who slouches a lot and has facial warts. Meaning, she's my kind of witch. But, of course, this witch isn't Mitch's kind of witch, so, he rebuffs her the bargain she tries to make with him, one that entails that he become her lover in exchange for fixing his fucked up face.

As The Witch was listing the framework of her bargain, I was already chomping at the bit to agree to her terms, as I was already head over heels in love with her, facial warts and all.

Even though he rejects her, The Witch fixes Mitch's fucked up face anyway. When Mitch goes to thank The Witch, she has mysteriously disappeared. Or has she? No, wait, she's definitely not here. What I mean is, I don't think this will be the last we'll hear from The Witch, as witches rarely do things without getting something in return. In fact, forget about witches, most people don't do anything without at least getting something in return.

Entering a fancy restaurant with a newfound swagger, Mitch approaches an attractive woman in a yellow dress sitting all alone. And before you know it, Ellen Parker (Elizabeth Lee) is sitting on Mitch's couch wearing nothing but a towel.

Suddenly, without warning, Ellen Parker turns into The Witch. Laughing in a manner befitting a witch, The Witch sort of stands up (don't forget, she's a sloucher), and evilly reminds Mitch about their bargain. The way Mudite Arums says the word "lover" drives me wild (the emphasis she puts on the 'L' is the stuff shameful erections are made of). Oh, and it's in this scene where we get our first glimpse of the lips on The Witch's left knee.

"I had a dream--I wanted to lick your knees." ~ Camper Van Beethoven

Since the police in Jefferson, Wisconsin are desperate to catch a blow torch-wielding serial killer, one who has killed seven women, they turn to Mitch for help. As he's being recruited by the cops, Dr. Alex Jordan arrives in town to gauge Mitch's validity as a psychic, the federal government is eager to exploit his gifts to fight the Soviets.

After providing the police with multiple demonstrations of his power, Mitch is put on the case. However, Dr. Jordan is still somewhat skeptical. It doesn't seem to matter, though, as he seems more interested in wooing Ellen Parker than investigating Mitch's psychic abilities.

Even though we're given the occasional reminder that Ellen Parker is, in actuality, a witch. I thought the film could have used more scenes that featured Mudite Arums acting all witch-like, and less one's that boasted squares with boring haircuts sitting around talking about serial killers and demonically possessed blankets. I did like it when Dr. Jordan uses karate to subdue a couple of drunken troublemakers outside a bar, as it totally justified the existence of the white guys doing karate scene that sort of opened the film.

Oh, and I could have used more of Peg Stewart, she plays the leggy brunette Mitch chats with at a party.


  1. Well, of course, before 'Enter the Dragon', white folks got hip to karate with all the double-nought spy movies of the mid-sixties. Of course this also accounts for Hai Karate after shave.

    1. It sounds like my crack research staff has been smoking crack again. ;)

  2. I just got off Skype with Agnieszska and filled her in on Kodokan high-level black belt Yamashita Yoshiaki bringing judo to the Seattle area as early as 1903, and establishing various dojo and tournaments there soon afterwards. She'll be reporting back after fishnet and sex-toy shopping in Kabuki-cho. Might be a mo'.

    This is one I've always been meaning to see. Like the granddaddy of all sleazy '60s freak-out movies. H.G. Lewis sure made an ass-load of deranged stuff.

    1. This Kabuki-cho place you speak of looks like heaven on earth. Anyway, yeah, 1903, eh? That's a lot earlier than 1973. *Agnieszka! Get in here!*

    2. Its one of the biggest red-light districts in Tokyo, in Shinjuku ward. Extremely skeezy. There are some punk clubs there I go to sometimes to see bands play. Shinjuku Loft being the most famous.